Unlike a lot of other gamers, I didn’t grow up with platformers. I didn’t even play a traditional Mario game until last year’s Super Mario Odyssey. Other than that, my main exposure to the genre comes from Robot Unicorn Attack 2 and assorted mini-games. I like all of those titles, so when I saw that Runner3 had a similar vibe I was intrigued. The game was developed by Choice Provisions, and it features a unique cartoon aesthetic and fairly difficult gameplay. Is it good?
Visually, Runner3 impressed me as soon as it started. The player characters have fun designs, and the game’s worlds are a pleasure to look at. There are three main areas referred to as “lands,” each of which is further divided up into several levels. Each land has its own theme, such as food or Halloween-esque decor. The game opens with the aptly named Foodland, which mixes food with architecture in novel ways. My favorite detail in these levels is the presence of trees with blueberries as foliage. The colors in this area are bright, and put one in a good mood from the get-go.
Unfortunately, later portions of the game aren’t as charming artistically. Spookyland, for instance, has multiple levels that look more industrial than spooky. The enemies are also fairly forgettable design-wise. Most of them are generically mechanical, and don’t contribute the same sort of joy to the gaming world that you can find in, say, Mario’s adversaries.
With that said, the game’s audio is consistently great. Given the repetitive nature of their gameplay, it’s important for platformers to have music the player can jam out too. Runner3′s soundtrack is upbeat without being too abrasive. Most of the sound effects are also pleasing to the ear, especially the ones that accompany the game’s collectible currency. Picking up several gold bars or gems in a row is satisfying not just because it increases one’s score, but also because it is accompanied by such lovely sound.
When it comes to gameplay, though, Runner3 disappoints. This game is no joke difficulty-wise. That’s not a bad thing inherently, but there are definitely portions that are difficult due to flawed rather than intentional design. There is no tutorial whatsoever, and while the controls are simplistic enough to work without one, the actual game instructions are almost hidden.
Players learn what buttons to press when from signs in the level’s backgrounds, but those signs are easy to miss or ignore. With so much going on in the foreground, one often has to tune out background details in order to simply not die. Even when one does look at the backgrounds, some of the signs themselves are almost illegible. One type of sign has white text on a yellow background, and I missed it literally half a dozen times before it caught my eye. As a result, I had to figure out that portion of the controls by trial-and-error rather than through the actual instructions provided.
As far as the game’s more intentional difficult aspects, different players are sure to have different opinions. Veterans of the series are likely to enjoy the challenging and non-forgiving gameplay. Newbies to the series and casual videogame players are likely to find the game less satisfying. The levels don’t provide much in the way of decision-making; you either get every single set move correct or you die.
These strict level layouts are made all the more frustrating by fairly frequent camera problems, where the player has little to no time between first seeing obstacles and having to dodge them. Most of the levels took me dozens of tries to complete, and my only reward was unlocking more similarly difficult levels. Unless you love extremely difficult games, you’re likely to find that little in Runner3 actually makes all your efforts feel worthwhile.I will say that the occasional boss battles put fun twists on the concept of platformers, but they’re not fist-pumping good.
Overall, Runner3 is a decent game. The art and sound design are both good, and the gameplay can be fun if you don’t get frustrated easily. But if you’re a casual gamer who doesn’t want to take dozens of tries to complete each level (none of which are especially different from all the others), then you may want to give this title a pass. Nonetheless, series veterans and gamers who love a good challenge are likely to find Runner3 enjoyable, if not groundbreaking.
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